Sunday, April 29, 2012

Eyes on the prize

"For me, goals are my road map to the life I want. They have helped me accomplish things I once thought were impossible."  - Catherine Pulsifer

I started cycling to achieve one specific goal. I didn’t realise it at the time, but when that goal no longer became viable, I simply kept on riding because it was fun. Cycling had become a part of who I was and what I did.

What’s so bad about doing something for fun? Nothing. But to be among the best in the World at anything, you need to work hard. Really hard. And that isn’t always fun. This is where goals come in. Goals are the rainbow which reminds us why we put up with the rain in the first place and to be successful, you need goals.
At the beginning of 2010 after a rather forgettable 6months on the bike due to injuries and illnesses (what I’m sure many athletes can sympathise with), I continued to ride the wave that I had become accustomed to with no firm destination in sight. I woke up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning to train, worked 2 jobs to fund my sport, sacrificed time spent with family and friends – and looking back now, I really have no reason why. The majority of the time I loved riding, but the sacrifices I was making at the time far outweighed the rewards I was receiving in return.

At the end of 2010, I rode up the Mur de Huy for fun.

2010 came and went, I was improving on the bike but not at the rate that I hoped, that people had expected. I’d joined another European team for 2011 and was set on going there to find that fitness and strength I once had and when I suffered yet another injury in the closing weeks of my trip I started thinking – my body is telling me I can’t do this. Why am I doing this to myself.

For the whole month afterwards whilst I was recovering, I actually had an off season. It was the best thing I ever did. It gave me time to reflect on what exactly I wanted to get out of cycling and if the sacrifices I was making were all worthwhile. At races I would pull out when the going got tough, pull out of bunch rides when they got hard and find excuses not to train when the weather was far from perfect. I didn’t see the point of me riding when I didn’t want to, and it felt like no one else did too.

And in the space of 2 weeks, everything back flipped. I was given two incredible opportunities that I could never have wished for. I had a clear mind, a new challenge and just like that - the spark had reignited.  I was able to set clear goals and distinguish a purpose to my cycling, to be able to enjoy the rewards from the sacrifices.

The past 6 months has been about finding and re-building myself again. I have changed my whole approach to the sport to rise to this challenge. It has been a frustrating, yet vital stepping stone to achieving my new found goals. Every time I clip into my pedals I set myself a goal. Whether it is chasing Strava KOMS, watching my cadence or something as trivial as eating and drinking at certain times – every session has an element of intrinsic motivation. And each session I do is a building block to lead me to bigger and better things.

2012 has seen me find that passion I let wander for the sport. I can honestly say I can’t remember last time I had this much fun riding my bike. In my new environment I am now motivated and have a drive that I didn’t know was missing until just now. It is this motivation and drive which kicks me out of bed when it’s cold and raining. The same one that makes me train solo day in day out. The same one that makes me give 100% in training.
2012 and i'm racing up the Mur de Huy in my first World Cup, Fleche Wallonne. :)
I have 2 clear goals at the moment – one short term and one long term. They are written and stuck in a place where I see them every morning to help me refocus in times like now, when you get a little too much time to over analyse things.
So whilst I’m pedalling towards some of my goals, I want to leave you with something I hope might help if you ever find yourself stuck in a similar situation:

Goals give you a purpose and send you on the most extraordinary journeys in search for them. I’m not saying that everything you do has to have a purpose, but I AM saying at least make sure whatever you’re doing, you’re having fun. After all what makes you strive forward when the going gets tough? Why are you doing this in the first place?

We can change a lot of things in our lives, but one thing we can’t change is time. Life is there to be lived. To be enjoyed. So do it :)

Until next time,

M xx

Monday, April 2, 2012

'Dare il benvenuto a Italia’

... Was the first thing I heard when I stumbled off the plane at Milan airport last Sunday.  I tried to unscramble the words in my head, my first test to see how little Italian I remembered since being here in 2009 - ‘Dairy eel ben vennouto a Italia’... Nothing. I’m definitely screwed.

Bags successfully located and squashed onto a trolley, I blindly manoeuvred the vehicle into a bollard causing my pile of luggage to fall to the floor. Cr@p. Sure enough I did it in front of a man who turned out to be my DS. ‘Great’ I thought, he’s probably thinking ‘so THIS is my newest recruit? A non-italian speaking Australian life battler?’ – But no sooner than the thought crossed my mind, he grabbed my face, kissed me on both cheeks, gave me a hug and relieved the trolley from my clutches. What a legend. This was my first reassurance that things were probably going to turn out just fine.

For me it has pretty much been the same story every year – join team, don’t know anyone on said team, make sure the team is in a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know where you’re living… It’s a big gamble to say the least and you never know exactly what you’ve signed up for until you have both feet firmly on the ground, and it’s starring straight back at you. Needless to say the first impressions from my new team for 2012, Faren Honda Women’s Team, were great. And they only got better from there :)

No less than 1hr from peeling my butt of the aeroplane seat I was at the team hotel for the start of the Cittiglio World cup which was being held that day, equipped with a new bike and loads of team swag. It was like Christmas and I think the management staff had their fair share of enjoyment watching me literally ‘squeal’ out loud each time they handed me a new item. I am very excited to get my 2012 Euro season underway, and it definitely showed. Next up was a quick photo shoot in the new kit with some of the sponsors, where the fact that I hadn’t bathed for a day seemed to concern me more than it did them. Meanwhile, cleats were being fitted to my sweet new Sidi kicks and final touches were being done to my bike and by the time the cameras stopped flashing I was taking my new Kuota KOM for its maiden spin. And it felt amazing.
My machine for the season!! I picked it out from the line up because of the sweet name sticker! anddd the fact that it was 2 sizes smaller than the rest of them ;)

New Sidi kicks :)

Shot with the big boss at Kuota - they said showering and brushing your hair is overrated. Apparently

Fast forward 30min and I was sitting with the team at breakfast for their pre-race meals and it wasn’t until I saw food that I was reminded how hungry I was. I looked at the buffet table, looked at my super fit teammates and repeated. Looking around the table, I probably should’ve stopped eating last year… So an espresso for breaky it was! Then it was time for the team meeting, given in Italian, where I was suitably able to perfect the awkward smile as I sat there basically only understanding every second word. I was later reassured that they would translate for me when I started racing! Thank god.

Post meeting, the team scrambled in to the slick looking team cars and we were on our way to the start of the World Cup – and it wasn’t even 12pm yet. At the race, I politely smiled at and kissed no less than half the Italian population as we waited for the race to roll out and from then it was game on.

I was in a car with another local teammate who was not racing, as well as the soigneur and another staff member and we trekked to different vantage points on the loop before settling in at the feedzone and waited for the girls to come past for their 1st of 4 laps of the final circuit. After parking up on the hill, jetlag finally had a chance to catch up with me and I have to admit, I was taking sneaky naps behind my sunnies between passing’s. Each time the group went past I played ‘spot the teammie’ whilst the rest of the staff located said teammie and fed/watered them – it was great to see a number of our girls in the front bunch, I’m definitely going to have to bring my A game to support these girls!

4th time past and we rushed to catch the finish where we learnt that superhuman Marianne Vos had broken away from the field and went on to win solo, leaving a small bunch to battle it out for the minor placings. Someone jokingly said to me that the real winner of the race was Tatiana Guderzo who came in 2nd, because Marianne Vos is in such a different league to everyone else at the moment it doesn’t even seem fair. She’s amazing. Or it could’ve been because of the fact that they were Italian, and so is Guderzo... But I’ll go with the former.

Post-race, the team all gathered together for a debrief and me and my freshly acquired swag were loaded up in to our DS’s schmick Honda CRV and I was driven to my home for the next 6 months:  Bellano, a small town on the waterfront at the northern end of Lake Como. I opened the doors of my new home at 8:30pm – 13hrs later. I was knackered. But as I layed in bed on that first night, I struggled to get to sleep as I couldn’t stop thinking of everything that had happened that day. As I mentioned earlier, you rarely ever know what you have gotten yourself in to until its starring back at you in the face – but as I stared at my team suitcase and all my gear I was liking what I saw… Finally proof that 2012 is going to be my first year as a professional cyclist on a UCI team... I can’t wait to pull on that team kit and get on the start line for the first time in Europe.
First ride out on the road. Happy to say the least :)
And for those who are interested, I will be updating my blog more frequently whilst I’m over here however for any team news, race calendar, results etc… please check out my website at :)

Until next time,

Ciao ciao, ciao ciao ciao ciao

M xx

p.s – more photos to come in next post :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dotting Your I's and Crossing Your T's.

Google tells me there are 49 ways to dot your I’s and cross your T’s. I’m pretty sure it’s lying, but for the sake of this argument – I’ll let it slide. For those who are unaware of this saying, ‘to dot your I’s and cross your T’s’ means to take care of every detail, even minor ones or to be meticulous and thorough in your actions. So why the English lesson? Well the difference between being a good athlete and champion athlete often lays in one’s dedication to dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s in all aspects of training, recovery and nutrition. To reach the top level in any sport, it is not sufficient to simply undertake the prescribed training; equal emphasis needs to be placed on those extra ‘1%ers’, because at the top level in sport 1% can make all the difference.

I have just gotten back from the biggest 2 weeks on my Australian cycling calendar, competing in the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic and the Australian National Championships with the Dream Team. I feel as though I have been hit by a truck, reversed over several times and am now parked on by said truck and I’m 99% sure it’s just my bodies way of paying me back for not addressing the 1%ers as meticulously as I should’ve.


Thoughts gathered and brain refreshed after a week hiding away in Ballarat, I met up with the Dream Team girls on New Year’s Eve in Geelong and welcomed the New Year with the first round of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic. Despite not being a renowned criterium rider, I had come off a big block of training, was feeling strong and confident that I could help my team achieve a result in the series.

Day 1 at Ritchie Boulevard went better than I could’ve imagined – I was up the front for the first half of the race trying to do my bit for the team before retreating to the tail end of the bunch but still managing to finish with teammate Rochelle Gilmore rounding out the podium in 3rd place! I have only ever finished 1 round of the Bay Crits in the past 4 years I have done them, and the longest I had ever lasted on this course was 10min/45min – so on Day 1 I was already ahead.

It hurt, but I did it.

Day 2 in the Eastern Gardens was held in what could only be described as inhumain conditions, 42 degrees before you even got on the road. Unfortunately for us, the team didn’t have a great race but considering the conditions we were happy with our performance – we finished and still had all our skin. Day 3 in Portarlington I woke up with a queezy stomach (I’m blaming funsized chocolates which I shouldn’t have been eating in the first place, there’s nothing fun about them.) and so after ending up in the red zone by going with an early attack on lap 1, on lap 2 I went straight to the bathroom. 4th and final day in Williamstown our team was hoping for a bunch sprint and Rochelle finished it off with 3rd in the bunch kick for 4th overall. As for me? I had nothing. Riding my bike I was the equivalent of a dead horse, being beaten aimlessly to run.

After the final race, needless to say I wasn’t feeling confident leading into the National Criterium Championships in Ballarat the day after but fronted the start line with fingers crossed that the rest of the girls coming off Bay Crits would be feeling equally as fantastic as I was – they weren’t and mid-way through the race I called it quits. That left less than 48hrs to somehow master reset my body in some vague attempt to recapture what was my form leading into Bay Crits 1 week ago.

Last ditched effort to find my legs before the road race

D Day and I thought I was feeling good but turns my body was lying to me – how rude. The thing about that Nationals course is that you find out pretty quickly if you’ve got the legs or not…. And yeah, I didn’t. Lap 1 and I was blown out the back. Luckily there were a few other girls in the same boat and we lapped around drifting little by little from the back of the peloton before being pulled from the course at 3 laps to go. That was it, as quickly as it came around, Nationals was over. So here’s my question – WTF HAPPENED?!?!

It is so easy to get caught up in the atmosphere on tour that it is easy to get distracted and forget about the little things, especially for someone like me who has the attention span of a goldfish…what was I talking about again? Over the past 2 weeks I was going to bed at close to 11:00pm most nights, walking around when I should’ve had my feet up, not paying particular attention to my diet – and ultimately, I paid my price. Sure, these things may work for some people but not me. I was on a steep downward slope and as each day went by, I was feeling worse and worse on the bike. I was strong and knew I was good enough to be able to help out the team but when it came down to the pointy end of the race, when the best get sorted from the rest, I just didn’t have it. That’s the only explanation I have for my embarrassingly poor performances of the past 2 weeks.

It was evident who had put in the hard yards leading into the past events and they were ultimately rewarded for their sacrifices. In the end, it was those 1%ers that made all the difference. Back home now I have resorted back to my strict ways, I have my routines and sure they are time consuming and painstaking at times but they are all necessary for me to become the best I can be at my job. There are many different tips and tricks athletes use to gain that extra 1% advantage over their competition, as there are ways to dot I’s and cross T’s, and it doesn’t matter how you do it – you just have to make sure you do it.

I’m confident that it won’t take too long to unlock the form that showed its head a fortnight ago and now have only a few more weeks left working at my part time jobs and enough time to fit in a solid training block before hopefully competing in the NZCT Women’s Tour of New Zealand on the 22nd Feb. In the meantime I will have my glasses on, pen in hand and making sure every I and T is left dotted and crossed.

Until then stay safe and happy pedalling

M xx

P.S - OK, so the helicopter ride with the girls WAS pretty cool.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FOUND: Myfanwy Galloway.

Hi! My name is Miff, you may remember me from such blog posts as ‘Limousin and the little things’ written here over 4 months ago, or vaguely remember my face from races in Europe nudging back closer to 5 – OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been MIA on the blog front for a fair while.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my familiar room in Ballarat - inhaling the tortuous fumes of raisin bread from the bakery next door as they waft through crevasses of my apartment.

Damn you Sunicrust Bakeries!!

 I’ve retreated to the home of the Australian National Championships a week prematurely to take time out to screw my head back on and calm myself down before the torrential storm that awaits me in the Jayco Bay Criterium Series and the Australian Criterium and Road Championships. It is only now that I feel as though I’ve finally had the opportunity to take time out to reflect on what really has been a rollercoaster 4 months since I left the tranquil lakeside in Bellano. So what has been happening? People who know me say I talk too much – and I’ll agree, so I’ll spare the gory details and do my best to consolidate my thoughts in a few simple dot points:

  1. I sustained an overuse injury in Belgium which forced me to return to Australia 3 weeks early
  2. I actually had an offie – 10 days at my parents new holiday house in Bellano on Lake Como (ah-ma-zing) where I dutifully ate my weight in gelato.
  3. Living the tough life in Bellano :)

  4. My overuse injury got diagnosed as Medial Band Friction Syndrome – more commonly ITB Band Friction Syndrome found in runners on the lateral side of the knee, but because it would be unlike me to have textbook injuries, it was on the medial side of my knee. 5 rounds of cortisone by Iontopherisis, 1 cortisone injection and a bunch of physio and Pilates later and I’m feeling as good as new and have every intention on staying this way.
  5. I had a pretty awesome belated 21st birthday party with my twin sister –21st, been away for 4 months, Playboy theme, seeing friends…Need I say more?
    My sister and I at our Playboy 21st
  6. I had the pleasure of signing for Commonwealth Games Champion Rochelle Gilmore’s Dream Team for the Summer and hit the ground running with a win and 3rd place at the Subaru Noosa GP in October and am now the proud owner of a pretty damn sexy looking Pinarello Dogma 2 thanks to Pinarello and Campagnolo Europe :)
  7. The Dream Team

  8. I road tripped to Port Macquarie where caught up with two of my closest friends and two pros Carlee Taylor (who recently signed for Vienne-Futuroscope) and Lauren Kitchen (Rabobank) and took a girls weekend away to race the first race of our Summer season – Glen Inness to Inverell where Carlee won and placed 1st in the KOM, and Lauren won the Sprint competition.
    Carlee and Lauren contemplating going to 'Paradise' instead of racing
  9.  I got 2 new part-time jobs – receptionist at Kingston Physiotherapy and Brazilian Butterfly Canberra City which has been helping to keep my brain ticking over and my pockets full when I’m not training.
  10.  8. I raced the NSW International GP with the Dream Team where Kirsty Broun, the newest addition to the team, took the overall series and I decided to taste the bitumen due to a mechanical, finish the race, pass out at first aid, go home and realise I probably needed stitches, at 8:30 at night. Granted, I have seen the footage of the crash – and it looks as though I decided that throwing myself on the ground would be less painful than racing, it looks hilarious.
    What would require my first lot of stitches! yummy...
  11. I third wheeled the women’s preseason GreenEdge/AIS camp in Canberra where I tasted more than my year’s intake worth of stem, bled from my eyeballs and somehow didn’t die – and am now feeling a whole lot stronger and better for it!
  12. I crammed in my last shifts at both jobs for the year by working 32hrs in 3 days leading up to Christmas and can’t wait for pay day.
  13. Christmas has been and gone and was a lovely day spent with my whole family and friends – all without managing not to give birth to food-octuplets by the days end.
    Christmas wouldn't be complete without an arvo nap...
  14. I am only 2 days away from starting my 2012 season – I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous but excited at the same time in my whole life.
  15. I’m scared to have a shower this morning after completely lobstering my back reading in the sun by the pool yesterday afternoon.

Oh, and there is one other little thing I let slide that I think deserved more of a recognition on my part than being put in dot notes – for 2012, I will be riding in my first UCI Professional Team – Team Faren Honda. Based in Italy, the team consists of names such as Nicole Cooke (current Olympic Champion), Rochelle Gilmore (current Commonwealth Games Champion) and Fabiana Luperini (5x Giro d’Italia winner) to name a few and has its eyes firmly set on wins in the World Cups, Classics and the 2012 Giro d’Italia. For the season I will be based in Bellano, Italy (tough life I know) and look forward to using this fabulous opportunity to develop my potential as a rider with the help some of the most successful and established women in the peloton! More information about the team along with recent interviews I have done regarding my 2012 will be posted once my new site is launched!

Although I’m itching to head over to Europe and start my campaign with Faren Honda, Firstly, I have my eyes firmly set on the up and coming Jayco Bay Criterium series (1st-4th January) where I’m hoping to be able to help a very motivated Dream Team to continue its winning streak with the first win up for grabs in 2012. Watch this space for more regular, I promise, updates on which will no matter what be one hell of an adventure.

Until then stay safe and happy pedalling :)

M xx

 P.S I would also like to say a big thankyou to Jooann at for putting in the hard yards with my new site! It is very much still under construction but I would love any feedback! So please feel free to check it out at and tell me what you think :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Limousin and the little things...

It seemed as though it was only yesterday I was driving back with the For Viored Brookvex girls from the Czech Republic when sure enough I was back on the road again – destination the Tour Feminin en Limousin in France.

I had just come off a good ride at Dwars de Westhoek, a UCI 1.2 here in Belgium a couple of days prior where I managed to finish the race in the less than ideal conditions… The race was 120km, included in which was a 10km circuit with 400m of cobbles which we had to jiggle over each lap – and I say jiggle, because there is NOTHING flattering about riding over cobbles!! :-/ I was sitting comfortably in the peloton before about midway into the race when the wind picked up and race turned quickly into a competition to see who could sit as close to the gutter and wheel in front whilst chewing as much stem as possible… Long story short, a lapse in concentration saw me fail at the former at the pointy end of the race and I finished in a group behind the peloton in 34th place – not a great result but it was a UCI 1.2 race, I finished, and considering that last year I crashed 20km in and broke my ribs, I think that is an achievement in itself. I was feeling good (after a couple of days recovery to regain movement in my arms – who needs a shake-weight when you have cobbles!!) and excited about racing Limousin!

Getting my hurt on at Dwars de Westhoek

The road trip was ‘only’ 8hrs and given that the team was already over from the UK after competing in Dwars de Westhoek, we took advantage of the few days in between racing to make a head start on the road trip and get an extra day recovery in before the start of the Tour. We arrived at our home for the night in Gueret (central France) in dark, cold and rainy conditions. I can’t remember what triggered it, maybe it was a combination of the tiredness and restlessness from the road trip, the miserable weather or standing face to face with what I was expected to be sleeping in that night – but all of a sudden I was feeling a long way from home… Scrambling for the iphone, I was nervously awaiting signal from what was one of my main sources of sanity on tour – wireless internet. I sat outside on the steps of the motel in the rain for the next 10min getting my fix, my reminder of loved ones and friends back home and just cried. Being out of your comfort zone in unfamiliar territory makes you appreciate the somewhat ‘simplicity’ of life back home…

I carry around with me a couple of reminders of home everywhere I go – a constant in a lifestyle which, for most amateurs at least, is sporadic and unsettled. I am not alone with my little qwerk, beyond the composed exterior of most professionals lies a regular human being who is just as vulnerable as you or I, and it is sometimes the small things such as this that keep riders going on Tour because every day they are faced with the same tiredness, food and pain and suffering and these mementos from home or Skype chats to the family are the only thing that you have of your own. Sometimes these little things are the only things that keep you sane and focussed on the task at hand.
Allan Piper shows a classic example of this in his autobiography when speaking of his relationship on Tour with Robbie McEwen – for Robbie ‘Crunch Muesli’ for breakfast was his Tour necessity and was one of his only requests on Tour, but Allan knew that ‘it was something [about the muesli] way beyond tasting better than other breakfast cereals, at least for Robbie it was.’

Being on Tour is about dealing with the insane tiredness and the emotional roller-coaster that is bike racing. . Bradley Wiggins is another professional who touches briefly on life on Tour in his autobiography ‘On Tour’ – he says ‘It’s about suffering and somehow getting the job done when probably the more logical and sensible option is to sit up, get off and book the first flight home to your loved ones’. He also advises riders try their best to flatten out the highs and lows experienced on Tour as a means of survival whilst highlighting the importance of simply being able to ‘just keep your head down and try to ride to your limit as often as possible.’

I feel that whilst I may highlight the less appealing aspects of being on Tour, I should remind you that I do actually love doing what I do. My blog was initially a reminder to myself of all my invaluable experiences I’ve had on the bike, but also to provide onlookers a glimpse into the reality of the world of cycling and whilst it may appear all rhythm and routine, organised and for the men at least, glamorous, if you scratch the hard perceived exterior of most professional cyclists you will find a person just like yourself equipped with their own unique strategies for undertaking these extraordinary feats out on the road.

Fix successfully gotten and it was time to wipe away the tears, get out of the cold and get changed for dinner. I was feeling good and determined to have a successful tour and knew that sacrifices made would all be worthwhile in the long run :)

The next day we were able to do a recon of the first stage of the Tour which started the following day – an 18km rather boring circuit to be completed 6 times with a couple of short climbs in it. Recon successfully completed and it was time to head to our race accommodation and home for the next 4 days – another boarding house somewhere in between ‘somewhere’ and ‘nowhere’ in the region of Limousin :) then down to the school canteen for a surprisingly nice dinner and too much baguette bread and off bed!

The team freezing our butts off at team presentation

Stage 1:

The morning of stage one and it was bucketing down, as it had been for the past 24hrs. What a great start to the Tour! Wet weather gear on and it was time to race. The race was rather uneventful to be honest with my goal to use the stage as a tester to hopefully predict good things for the next few days. A couple of attacks went, were brought back and I was happy to be up there for the first few but it came down to the classic ‘miss the break that sticks’ and a small group about 10 rode off the front midway into the race and stayed there leaving me to finish in the peloton behind about 1min down. My legs ended up feeling like poo during the stage so I was happy to make it through with the group!! Without a soigny for the Tour, I knew I had to pull out all devices to try and get the pins pumped for the next few days!

Stage 2:

Time Trial day. For those who know me, I am not renowned for my ability in the fight against the clock however secretly despite my lack of natural talent in this area, I actually really enjoy them!!!! I’m not sure if it is because there are fewer variables or because your performance is generally dictated by how hard you push yourself but for some sick reason, I like a bit of hurt! I didn’t have any aero gear except for an aero helmet which made me look like something out of Predator, and so expectations were low on me for this stage… I still put in a solid effort and was happy to finish midway down the classy field! The team then decided to hang around in a local pub after the stage to watch Cadel battle out the last 40km of the Galiber stage and between you and me, it was probably the highlight of the day ;)


Stage 3:

Started off well. It was 126km undulating course with a couple of nasty KOMs thrown in for good measure. I was up there in the front group and rode out of my skin to get over the major KOM midway through the race with the lead split when a couple of kms later after successfully doing so, I cramped like I was being shot in my calves and glutes with a tazer. I haven’t cramped like this before and definitely have no desire to do it again. I’m not sure it was a combination of dehydration in the heat or simply my punishment for pushing my body harder than it appreciated but long story short – every time I turned the pedals with any force I cramped and it wasn’t long until the convoy past me, as did the bunches behind and I was creeping at around 20kph..On the flat. With 30km to go and the ambulance behind us DNFed – no excuses, I just couldn’t bear with it any longer.

Stage 3 started off so well...

That was it – Tour over. Just like that. Unclipping from the bike all I could do was sit on the ground outside the van in the rain trying to patch up the puncture in my will to live. Lesson learnt, no matter how boxed you are, make sure you eat and drink and hopefully this Tour served as an increase in intensity my body needed to get me to that next level in fitness… no doubt will see when I race today!

The last day of the Tour was spent at the pub and exploring the patisseries in the host town before commencing the epic journey back to Belgium. I arrived back home at 2am after another eventful trip and one of the first things I did was unpack my suitcase. I didn’t care what time it was but all I knew was that Belgium was home for the next month and all my stuff was going to be unpacked and have its own place in my room – just where I wanted it. Because sometimes, it’s the little things that keep you going :)

My next race is a 90km kermesse this afternoon in Brambugge – the same area which is playing host to a UCI 1.2 next weekend which I will be guest riding for! It will be good to see how the body has recovered from France and see what the area is like before the biggie the weekend after!

Anyway, enough of my blabbering – some people say I talk to much… and I think I’m starting to believe them :p

Until next time,

Take care and happy pedalling

Miff xx

Monday, July 11, 2011

Racing and a little too much information in Krasna Lipa

Over the past week I have been living the high life with my team in the Czech Republic...Not. I hope you've made yourself a cup of tea or at least a strong alcoholic beverage as this is going to be a long one... And it ain't going to be pretty.

The Tour de Feminin in Krasna Lipa, a UCI 2.2, was my first race in the For Viored Brookvex colours, and a harsh reminder that I, along with most women, don't do this sport because of the glitz and glamour.

The team :)

For me the trip started off with a 13hr drive from Belgium to Krasna Lipa with a well welcomed pitt stop at close to 2am in a local hotel in Germany where the team and staff were able to get some decent shut eye and freshen up. Departing again just after 9am, we arrived in Czech with enough time to get to our accommodation and have a quick spin on the bikes before tea. Pulling up to the accommodation we were greeted by a 7 story run down school building. This should've served as the first warning sign for all of us to take extra precautions in relation to hygiene over the next few days...

We were staying on level 5 and the lift was so rickety and old that it could only hold 3 people at a time. We stretched the limit and would sneak 4/5 girls in but the next morning we heard that a team had loaded themselves into the lift and it had gotten stuck between floors - from then on it was strictly 3 people to the lift for us, or 2 if we felt that we had eaten too much.

At 4 to a room, the dorms were actually quite big and the girls and I had thought we'd scored the good room until 11pm on the first night when we could hear a guy snoring...from the next room. This was a trend for the next 4 nights and we would rush to get to bed before our neighbor did, because if we didn't, we were in for a long sleepless night.

Our room...excuse the mess :s

The bathrooms were communal - toilets and showers for use by both men and women. The toilets weren't too bad as they at least had doors but I had forgotten how confident most Europeans are with their bodies until I noticed that only 2 out of the 8 showers had shower curtains. It also wasn't uncommon for you to go into the bathrooms and have a naked person, male or female, happily standing there whilst you brushed your teeth or filled up your race bottles. I'm all for feeling confident about your body but somethings are better left to the imagination... Please. I was going to try get a photo of the bathrooms but couldnt do it without feeling like a dirty perv. And nice try euros but p.s, a face washer does not classify as a towel.

Before i knew it was race day and sitting on the start line after all the debacle in actually getting my butt over to Europe, i was excited about finally starting my first UCI tour. The gun went off and for the first 20 odd k I haven't braked so much in my life. 161 nervous girls meant that positioning yourself at the front was mandatory - if you wanted to live. It took me a while to get settled in the bunch but once I did, I really started enjoying myself and remembered just why I love racing! I managed to stay with the first bunch until the final climb 3k from the finish when i dagged off the back. I rolled in just over 1min behind and in 54th place. I was quietly stoked about my performance given the circumstances and lack of racing and was looking forward to riding into the rest of the tour! What was most exciting was seeing the other Australian teams and super legend Amanda Spratt take out the win with former track sprinter Nettie Edmondson in 2nd!!! It's always nice seeing other Aussies on the otherwise of the World, and doing so well!!

Back to the accommodation for showers and dinner, we were greeted in the kitchen by yet another serving of chicken and potatoes or rice if you thought the rice from lunch would taste better a second time round. In all fairness though, it was edible.

On this trip were fortunate to have 6 staff members accompanying us. Each night Jody and Ian were the Soignys in charge of tricking our legs into thinking the day's racing never happened. Gerard from Rouleur was our own personal photographer for the week, stalking our every move for an article about soigneurs on tour ( i can't wait the see the pictures he took, they are definitely uncensored) Then there was Steev our mechanic and assistant mechanic Boudewijn and last but not least, Rene our DS.

Day 2 and on paper it definitely looked rough. We had to climb that same set if climbs I had gotten dagged on the previous day 3 times before entering a 20k flatter circuit. My goal for the race was to finish first bunch. Up the climb for the first time, dagged. Chased back on on the decent and caught up through the cars a few k before starting the climbs the 2nd time. 2nd time up the climb, dagged again. This time got into a rhythm and got over the top in the cars and so managed to get back pretty quick. 3rd time up the climb and i somehow hauled my ass over with the first group, thank god. Rode in the bunch and crossed the line at the back of the first group - one happy camper :) Aussie Jayco rider Mel Hoskins took the win with Nettie again taking 2nd spot ahead of Aussie National rider Belinda Goss! Spratty again put in a huge effort to keep the jersey.

It was from the moment we got back to the accommodation that things started to go downhill... Having dinner I instantly felt ill. Attributing it to carbooverlading, I went for my massage and laid in bed thinking nothing of it. It wasn't until 1am that I knew something wasn't right, I rushed to the bathroom and felt sick. I emerged from the toilet and saw a handful of other riders including another one of our own, Gabby Shaw sitting out front. About an hour later the German National DS walked in from the lower level and said 'oh no, not you too' - turns out there was a bunch of us who had felt the wrath of dodgey fish night at the canteen.. I stayed up crippled with a fever and stomach ache until 5am when i crawled my corpse into bed. 6am and the alarm went off for breakfast as we had a double stage and had to leave just after 7am. Needless today, I wasn't feeling it. I felt as though I had a horrible hangover, without the awesome memories from the night before - I got ripped off big time. I hadn't felt that ill for a LONG time.

I couldn't even lift my head from the pillow let alone get myself out of bed and I quickly came to the realization that there was no way I was going to be getting on the bike today. I was filthy to say the least. Having to pull out of a tour is a hard and frustrating enough decision as it is, made even more so when it is due to unnecessary things outside of your control.

Welcome to the perks of lower level women's cycling. The higher ranked teams were put up in hotels whilst us club teams were in these dorms. Riding tours are hard enough as it is and after each stage it is particularly important to put extra emphasis on recovery strategies. Most higher level teams have staff to look after meals, washing and even booking different accommodation when the set accommodation it isn't up to scratch. Unfortunately this isn't the case for most other women club teams. Once we get home from the stage, it's into the open communal showers with hot water if your lucky (don't forget your thongs). Next its time to hand wash your kit in the sink and cross your fingers that it will dry in time for the next stage, otherwise you're riding in a wet chamois - yummy. Down for dinner and if it looks slightly poisonous or unappealing then tough luck, looks like you're going to starve unless there is a supermarket nearby where you can buy pre-made meals. After dinner you have to walk up 5 stories because the rickety lift has finally given way when legs burning, you eventually reach your bedroom and realize you've forgotten your room key on the table downstairs...Finally to bed where getting bedding provided to you is optional, I always bring a pillow and a towel so I don't have to use my backpack and paper towel or a face washer.
Before you know it, it's ridiculous o'clock at night and you shouldve been in bed hours ago but now you're lying awake because a dog is barking or the staff members of another team are all having a grand old time drinking beers - it's 2am and you've got 4hrs until you get up and have to do it all over again.

Our accomodation...

Welcome to pretty much women's cycling. And this was a UCI race!!! But what keeps me coming back year after year is the joy and excitement I get from racing and the people i meet along the way. I know if I continue to work hard my efforts will pay off and I will get the results which will enable me to eventually ride for a professional women's team and make all of this seem worthwhile. In the meantime, I'm trying not to stress too much and enjoy the ride - otherwise I'll never make it out alive :p

A big thank you to all the team at For Viored Brookvex for the support and a special mention to Jody Leach our swanky for sitting up with us and listening to a bunch of girls being sick. If you think being a male swanny for a team of girls would be the best job ever - ask this man. You definitely deserved a medal.

My eyes and ears will never be the same after this trip but i'll leave that all for another post. I'm now sitting in the van on te epic journey back to Belgium. I'm still feeling slightly average but I'm looking forward to getting back home, recovering and getting my body ready for my next race Dwars de Westhoek, a UCI 1.2 in Belgium. I broke my ribs at this race 20km in last year so here's hoping for some better luck!!! Lol...

Lost in translation in the race manual... I LOLed.

Until next time,

Stay safe and take care

Miff xx

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let the adventures begin :)

Arguably one of the most enjoyable perks of being a cyclist is that as part of your job, you are required to follow the sun and the warmth all year round. For most Aussie cyclists, the drop in temperature, increase of clothing required to maintain bodily function and the ritual of strapping lights to your bike for early morning rides marks the time to jump in the big sardine can and venture North with the sun and your tanlines in tow.

This year, winter has decided to waste no time in gracing us with its presence. Those living in Canberra would be forgiven for forgetting what it felt like to ride with toes and fingers, waking up with the sun to ride to morning bunches and being able to show off those ripped calves you’ve worked so hard to obtain.

Unfortunately for me, this year I am also going to over to Europe to start my overseas campaign a few weeks later than usual. As I’m writing this post on the first leg of the long haul journey, one thing I’m not missing is religiously checking the weather in some vague attempt that it’ll increase the minimum temperature for my morning’s ride. It’s like standing in front of a bare fridge, shutting it, and opening it again to see food magically appear – don’t act like you haven’t tried it!

The build up to this trip has been less than ideal to say the least and looking back on the last few weeks, I can’t help but wonder how the hell I got to be sitting in this seat.

A month ago things were going perfectly, I had good form and was feeling strong, was healthy, had secured funds, was happy and excited to come over and try and make a name for myself. It all seemed too good to be true really, and unfortunately it was!

The week before I was heading down to Wagga Wagga to compete in the Wagga Motors Handicap and Criterium (7/8th june) I started showing signs of getting a cold – the muscle aches, sore throat, runny nose and excessive tiredness. Originally I didn’t think it would be anything that an extra dose of cement on brekkie wouldn’t fix but after a couple of weeks with no signs of the symptoms regressing, I got some blood tests back which gave me some unexpected surprises. It turns out that I have a ‘severe allergic reaction’ to something in the environment, but no one knows what. I went in to anaphylactic shock last year after crashing out at Stromlo Forrest Park and proceeded to get tests to determine the cause to no avail, I was then told just to carry an epipen around with me wherever I went ‘just in case’. Little did I know that the allergic reaction would return in the severity it had! I was getting allergy induced asthma and my muscles weren’t having a bar of it. Or anything for that matter. With 2 weeks until I was due to fly out, it was good to determine (hopefully) the cause of my ‘creepingness’ and equipped with an assortment of inhalers and nasal sprays (eligible bachelors, please line up in front in an orderly manner…) fingers crossed they will no longer be a limiting factor when I hit the big smoke!

One of the reasons I am able to here now is that I’m very lucky there are so many generous people out there who support me and want to see me do well. When I got an email during that same time saying that my accommodation had been double booked and that I no longer had a place to stay in Belgium, Drapac Professional Cycling rider and fellow Canberran Stuart Shaw threw me a lifeline and with less than a week until this day, I had somewhere to call home again! I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to resort to renting a window in the middle of the Red Light district but thanks to a bunch of friendly people, my European season will see me based in Oudenaarde, a fast becoming cycling mecca and home of the World renowned Spring Classics! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO

A week ago to this day, I took my bike in for a last minute tune up and when I asked the mechanics to call me if there was anything wrong – I didn’t expect them to tell me that’d found a crack in my chain stay and that there was no way this little bike was getting on a plane to Europe. I guess it is better they found the crack here as opposed to me finding it for myself when my bike collapsed under me during a race (Self-conscious much????) but a third big blow to my overseas trip in as many days saw me suddenly doubt everything I was doing – it seemed as though someone, somewhere out there reallyyyyyyyyy didn’t want me to jump on this plane! Fortunately for me, the great team at Cervelo, MaryAnn Simpson and the team at the BikeShed Canberra – I received a brand spanking new Cervelo R5 frame under warranty, yesterday. Better late than never right?? Lol. I am still yet to ride it and I can’t wait to rip the copious amounts of bubble wrap/foam off the new machine and take it for a spin!!! The new black and green frame got pimped thanks to Jason Chalker at the BikeShed Braddon and with lime green lizard skin bar tape and equally green Maxxis Refuse tyres – if nothing else, at least I’ll look good ;)

To top it all off, the return of the Volcanic ash from Chile grounded all flights from Canberra yesterday and it wasn’t until this morning I was able to find out if my flight from Canberra to Sydney was actually going to be flying. It didn’t, but after a quick trip to the Jolimont centre, I was on the next bus destination Sydney.
They say things in life worth having don’t come easy - and these slightly unnecessary inconveniences definitely haven’t made things a walk in the park. But despite the lemons life has thrown at me, I’m still sitting here now with a big smile on my face ready to make myself some lemonade :)

I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead, learning as much as my brain can absorb, meeting new people and doing what I enjoy.

My first race with the For Viored Brookvex UK based team will be the Krasna Lipa, a tour in the Czech Republic starting the 7th July but first stop will be the UK Nationals tomorrow where I will be able to cheer on the girls and hopefully make myself useful (or most likely pass out quietly in the corner as to not disturb anyone).

So watch this space and hopefully I will have more good news to report in the not too distant future!

Until then, stay safe and happy pedalling

Miff xx

p.s because my sole purpose in life is to embarrass my sister, I’d just like to give a shout out to the better half in the relationship – my gorgeous sister Bron. Happy 21st Birthday. I’m so glad I was able to celebrate even a few hours of it with you, it’s been too long. I hope you have a safe trip to the US and I’ll be on the sidelines in your own custom cheer costume, barracking for you the whole time (although I won’t be doing the splits, there is no way in hell that could end well.) I don’t know anyone else who would get as excited as you about spending your winter holidays doing more Uni but I know your hard work is going to pay off. Watch out for this name people, this girl will run the country one day (and buy me a car with her first million ;) ). Love you long time and miss your face already – Miff & Raoul.